Abasto Mall, a huge shopping complex on Corrientes, is the largest shopping complex I have seen in Buenos Aires, or at least the most prominently visible. Built in the 1930’s to serve as a marketplace for all of Buenos Aires, the mall now houses a wide variety of fairly mainstream clothing stores in its tall, concrete structure. On the left corner of the mall is a large McDonald’s, just what you would expect to find in an edifice devoted to consumption and capitalism. What isn’t immediately visible is that this is not the only McDonald’s in the mall, it is one of three. And one of those three is the only Kosher McDonald’s outside of the state of Israel.
I first learned about this McDonald’s in the plane on my way to Buenos Aires. Reading through the Frommer’s guide, I was surprised. Is Buenos Aires a city with a large Jewish population? It turns out, yes, and I knew right then that since I might never make it to Israel, I was going to have to find this Kosher McDonald’s and see it for myself. Two months later, I still hadn’t done it, despite walking past Abasto time and time again. It was hard to pick McDonald’s over a choripan or empanada. This Wednesday, I finally went into the mall and asked the girl working the dessert counter at McDonald’s if this was a Kosher McDonald’s. No, she said, this one isn’t. I was momentarily disappointed, until she pointed up, telling me I would find it on the third floor, down a hall on the right side. Up two escalators and only asking for directions one more time, I finally found the Kosher McDonald’s, tucked off the main food court (where another, regular McDonald’s was doing brisk business). Appropriately, an Orthodox Jew stood by the Pick-Up counter. I wanted to take a picture of him in the foreground, with the McDonald’s sign in the back, but that seemed far too rude to even consider actually asking. Instead, I took out my camera and took some pictures of the counter until I was stopped by a security guard in the mall. Perhaps no one is allowed to take pictures in the mall, but I suspect it was because I was taking pictures of the Kosher McDonald’s. Even after 13 years, people here still remember the bombing in 1994 of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association that killed 85 people.
What I noticed before the security guard hastened my departure was that the menu was, unsurprisingly, considerably reduced. There are no cheeseburgers, of course, and they buy their breakfast medialunas (croissants) from a special Kosher bakery. The coffee cream is vegetable in origin and instead of having ice cream they serve what sounds like a fruit smoothie. The food and its preparation are supervised by Rabbi Daniel Oppenheimer. Mr. Oppenheimer writes for “La Voz Judia,” an online Jewish publication for Buenos Aires. On the McDonald’s website, Mr. Oppenheimer is quoted saying, “For me, the greatest value of our relationship with McDonald’s is that people who have prejudices about Kosher food will try it with the weight of the McDonald’s name attached.”
Is the McDonald’s really a cultural ambassador? I am still trying to better understand the relationship of the Argentines to their Jewish population. I can say that it is one of the few times I have eaten Kosher. I know there are much better Kosher restaurants in my own neighborhood of Once, and they are on my list of places to try, but really, going to the Kosher McDonald’s isn’t about eating Kosher. If you go, it will be to say you’ve been to the only Kosher McDonald’s outside of Israel. So if you’re in the Abasto mall, why not pop up to the third floor? Just remember not to try to go on Saturday.
Corrientes 3247 (between Aguero & Anchorena), Once
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Featured Product From MPTours.com
Download Buenos Aires walking tours for your iPod.